Updated: January 4, 2020 4:33:34 pm
Exactly 24 hours after the airstrike at Baghdad airport that killed one of Iran’s most powerful commanders General Qassem Soleimani among others, another deadly airstrike was reported on Saturday.
The Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces confirmed the strike, saying it hit one of its medical convoys near the stadium in Taji, north of Baghdad. The group said none of its top leaders was killed. A US official said the attack was not an American military attack. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.
Today’s attack escalated tensions between the US and Iran and the US had announced it would send more troops to the region. While Iran vowed to seek revenge for the targetted airstrike, Pentagon confirmed that US President Donald Trump had ordered Soleimani’s killing in the retaliatory attack.
Here are the top developments so far:
🔴 Almost 24 hours after the attack on Soleimani, Iraqi officials and Iranian-backed militias in Iraq reported another deadly airstrike. An Iraqi government official reported a strike on two vehicles north of Baghdad but had no information on casualties.
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🔴 Another security official who witnessed the aftermath described charred vehicles and said five people were killed. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media. Earlier today, Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces umbrella grouping of paramilitary groups said airstrikes near camp Taji killed six people and critically wounded three.
Explained: Why General Qassem Soleimani mattered
🔴 On today’s fresh attack, The US-led coalition fighting Islamic State said that it did not conduct any airstrikes near Camp Taji north of Baghdad. Earlier today, Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces umbrella grouping of paramilitary groups said airstrikes near camp Taji had killed six people and critically wounded three, reported Reuters. The Popular Mobilisation Forces, meanwhile are holding an elaborate funeral procession for both men and others who died in the same airstrike starting in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, moving towards the Shi’ite holy city of Kerbala and ending in the Shi’ite holy city of Najaf.
🔴 Asserting that Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, Trump, Saturday, released a video saying, “Tonight on my direction, the United States successfully executed a flawless precision strike and killed the number one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qassem Soleimani. Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him. Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous to terrorists who harm or tend to harm any American. We will find you, we will eliminate you, we will always protect our diplomats, service personnel, all Americans and our allies.”
🔴 Reacting to Soleimani’s killing, India said it had “noted that a senior Iranian leader had been killed by the US”, urged restraint and called for de-escalation. The terse statement masked the deep unease about how far the ripples from this sharp spike in US-Iran tensions will extend across the region, and impact India.
🔴 One part of that question was answered after Iran warned of retaliation, with jitters on Dalal Street over the potential for an oil shock. The stock market fell by over a hundred points, but more telling was the rupee’s 38-paise drop around the same time to Rs 71.74 to the US dollar. India’s oil import bill in 2018-19 was $111.9 billion. And the new geopolitical tensions could not have come at a worse time, when the economy is crawling at 4.5 per cent GDP growth in Q2 this fiscal year.
🔴 With Iran vowing revenge, a possible widening of the US-Iran conflict, from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan and Pakistan, will not leave India unaffected. “We have to see what Iran’s options are. There will be enormous rage in Iran, but how will Iran retaliate? The power differential between the two is huge. If Iran does retaliate, it will know that the US will hit back, too,” said Vivek Katju, former diplomat who was in charge of the Iran desk at the Ministry of External Affairs.
Editorial | After Soleimani
🔴 On Friday, Gen Soleimani was killed in an airstrike, for which the US later claimed responsibility. The strike was carried out by a drone on a road near Baghdad’s international airport. Soleimani had reportedly just disembarked from a plane. The blast also killed others including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq known as Popular Mobilisation Forces. The Associated Press quoted Iran’s state TV as saying those killed included Soleimani’s son-in-law.
🔴 In the face of heightened tensions in the Middle East, the British government on Saturday advised UK nationals to avoid travelling to Iraq and Iran. “Following the death of Qasem Soleimani and heightened tensions in the region… We now advise British nationals against all travel to Iraq (and) we now advise against all but essential travel to Iran,” AFP reported Britain’s Foreign Office as saying in a statement.
🔴 Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that the European allies of Washington had not been “as helpful” as he hoped following the US killing of Qasem Soleimani in Iraq. Pompeo had called officials worldwide to discuss the attack, which although was praised by Trump’s Republicans and close ally Israel, was met with sharp criticisms that it could inflame regional tensions. “I spent the last day and a half, two days, talking to partners in the region, sharing with them what we were doing, why we were doing it, seeking their assistance. They’ve all been fantastic,” Pompeo said in a Fox News interview, adding, “And then talking to our partners in other places that haven’t been quite as good. Frankly, the Europeans haven’t been as helpful as I wish that they could be.”
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